Title hopes dim as No. 16 Gophers drop two

by Austin Cumblad

The Gophers womenâÄôs soccer team crossed the halfway point of Big Ten play this weekend, and the season is slowly slipping away. No. 15 Minnesota (10-4-2 overall, 2-3-1 Big Ten) suffered a pair of 2-1 losses on the road, falling to Penn State on Friday night and to No. 24 Ohio State in overtime Sunday afternoon. The Buckeyes, now 6-0-0 in the Big Ten, are in firm control of the conference, while the rest are bunching up behind them. The Gophers, now 2-3-1, dropped to sixth, and the Big Ten title, though not mathematically impossible, is essentially out of reach. Minnesota struck first in both games. Late in FridayâÄôs first half, redshirt freshman Steph Brandt headed a cross from senior Julie Rezac past the Nittany LionsâÄô goalkeeper to give the Gophers a 1-0 lead at the break. But Penn State, 13-time defending champions of the Big Ten, answered with two goals in the span of three minutes to take a lead it wouldnâÄôt relinquish. The Nittany Lions lost Sunday to Wisconsin and slid to third in the conference at 4-2-0. Ohio StateâÄôs perfect Big Ten record âÄî and head-to-head defeat of its neighbors âÄî is threatening to end Penn StateâÄôs title streak. But until the 82nd minute Sunday, it looked like Minnesota might foil the BuckeyesâÄô spotless record. Junior Tamara Strahota scored her fourth goal of the season in the 57th minute on an assist from senior Molly Rouse to again give the Gophers a 1-0 lead. They held on to it until Ohio StateâÄôs Paige Maxwell scored her eighth goal of the season to force overtime. Less than a minute into the first extra period, Lauren Granberg slid a low shot past sophomore goalkeeper Cat Parkhill. Minnesota hosts Michigan and Michigan State next weekend, then Big Ten basement dwellers Northwestern and Indiana the following week to wrap up the regular season.